The Hornets have agreed to sign Jazz restricted free agent forward Gordon Hayward to an offer sheet, according to the Charlotte Observer and the Deseret News.
Yahoo Sports reports the offer sheet is worth $63 million over four years, the maximum allowed under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
The contract's average annual value of $15.8 million would place Hayward among the most handsomely paid wings in the league. The only shooting guards or small forwards to earn more than $15.8 million in 2013-14 were Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Rudy Gay, and Kevin Durant.
Once the deal is officially completed after the NBA's free agency moratorium is lifted Thursday, Utah will have a three-day period to decide whether to retain Hayward by matching the offer. The two teams can also engage in sign-and-trade discussions.
Hayward, 24, averaged a career-high 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in 77 starts in 2013-14, his fourth season in Utah. The 2010 lottery pick paced the young and rebuilding Jazz in scoring during a 25-win season that led to the departure of former coach Tyrone Corbin and the hiring of Quin Snyder to replace him.
SI.com ranked Hayward at No. 10 on our "Top 25 Free Agents of 2014" list, noting that his shooting numbers suffered last year following the departures of Jefferson and Paul
Millsap in free agency last summer. Asked to carry an offense for the first time in his career, Hayward shot a career-low 41.3 percent overall and 30.4 percent from deep.
In Charlotte, Hayward would join a core group that includes center Al Jefferson, point guard Kemba Walker, 2012 lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and 2013 lottery pick Cody Zeller. Hornets forward Josh McRoberts agreed to sign a four-year, $23 million contract with the Heat earlier this week. Hayward and Kidd-Gilchrist would pencil in as the starting wings, with the former's all-around game complementing the latter's defense-first reputation.
Reports have indicated for months that the Jazz entered free agency with the intention of matching any offer made to Hayward, who also reportedly met with the Cavaliers this week. Utah's committed salary is projected to be well underneath the salary cap line for next season, making their Hayward decision a straightforward call. The only major salary on their books currently is the four-year, $48 million rookie extension given to Derrick Favors last fall. Hayward, Favors, 2013 lottery pick Trey Burke and 2014 lottery pick Dante Exum are among the Jazz's core pieces.
Charlotte re-branded as the Hornets upon the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. The franchise, which is owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan, was previously known as the Bobcats.